Hiromi Ishikawa knows that she has a lovely backbend. In On the Edge of a Dream she stretches and arches in streams of supple curves that alternate with soft extensions of her limbs, and crouches as wide as they are deep. Her partner, Fumi Tomioka, is less suited to the style. It’s an anagonistic partnership, both personally and physically. Together, they make much play with a rippling white cloth, and in one episode Tomiokoa, her body racked with retches, seems to have been poisoned. The piece seems to follow some mythic narrative of strange encounters, subtle subterfuge and uneasy resolutions, but it’s hard to tell what is going on or why: the choreography masks more than it reveals.
the two styles sit together uneasily... could push that encounter much further if he were less tentative about sacrificing the integrity of each
No such worries for Mark Smith’s solo Signdance, a confessional tale of an erotic love that’s first lived and then lost, followed by a lot of drinking in bars, and finally a re-evalution of self-worth. We’ve all been there (or at least know about it), and the story of fortitude-in-adversity is uplifting – but the danger with such autobiography is that it means more to the performer than to the audience. The difference here is that Smith tells his story by layering moves influenced by sign language over his modern jazz style. While the effect is clearly different for different people (the audience comprised a range of hearing abilities), for me it was less interesting when the gestures mime the song lyrics than when Smith’s moves are haltingly followed by an on-stage narrator. Most dance/text combinations are slaves to the words, but here the text subtitles the movement. Ultimately, though, the two styles – signing and jazz – sit together uneasily, and Smith could push that encounter much further if he were less tentative about sacrificing the integrity of each. As it was, the disjunction made me think of a jazz version of my least favourite part of Balanchine’s Apollo, where the ballerinas tack on gestures signifiying speech or silence to their classical steps.
Apollo also found echoes in Rashpal Singh Bansal’s Mnemonic: like Balanchine’s dance, this has a lone man surrounded by three female muses in white, and they all seem like Apollo-13 astronauts lost in space. Bansal weaves and sputters through the air as if it were an almost palpable medium, a magnetic forcefield that alternately tugs and repels his limbs. The choreography flips between Bansal’s solos and scenes for the three women in which they cluster and disperse like spinning particles, the trancey music periodically punctured by their errant ear-level kicks. It’s a cyclical, hypnotic perpetuum mobile, a bit techno, a bit Space Oddity, a bit too long.